With great joy, we preached the Spiritual Exercises to 13 youth from our parish. Two had made them before; as for the rest, they had not only never done the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, but they were convinced that it would be impossible for them to make it, and –I almost would dare to say– they doubted also that anyone in their right mind could be silent for almost four days (yes, almost four, and FOUR… because we started Thursday night and ended Sunday morning at breakfast…) and moreover, without their phones.
As always, we made the invitation during the parish announcements, well in advance, …but in our parish at present, this was about the same thing as saying that I am not going to be present. No one takes it is a personal invitation, but as an invitation for someone else. They are “distracted”, we could say, at home.
Fortunately, though this is the case, the opposite is also true: if someone is directly invited, they feel almost obliged. And so it happened… against every expectation, we gathered this MASSIVE number: 11 adolescent-youths who seem to have done something heroic for a youth in today’s world: detach themselves from the telephone and internet.
We meditated, contemplated, prayed the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and of course the Holy Mass. We even had the opportunity to renew our religious vows in their presence, since the 25th was the closing day of the Exercises. We renewed our vows a few minutes before the longed for benedicamus Domino… Having prayed so much and in such a variety of ways, on one hand made them dizzy, but on the other hand, it demolished their ideas that prayer was something boring, difficult and without any benefit. God was there with His Grace and consolations, to call them forth to an encounter, like a father who receives his children into their own home, desiring to show them his happiness at their having responded to his invitation.
Those of us who have made the Exercises know and do not doubt that they are very fruitful. But it was the most beautiful thing to be able to see the joy in their faces, not only at the end, but during the Exercises… and furthermore, their thankfulness for having been “obliged”, and their consequential promise and request to do them again within the year. Many discovered the world of the spiritual life, or they saw it now with a new light. In summary, we could say that they took hold of the reins in their spiritual lives.
We thank everyone who prayed for the fruits of these Exercises which we preached, and to all those who always pray for our Institute’s missions in Ulyanovsk, Russia. There were IVE priests and Servants of the Lord who prayed especially for this. We also give thanks for the help and charity of the sisters at our mission and for the laity who assisted us during the Exercises with the organization and prayers, so that these exercises might be a source of vocations for the Church.
We entrust ourselves to your prayers; you are always present in ours. Pray that these Exercises may continue bearing fruit in the souls of these youths, and that God may call some to the religious life.
Fathers Ezequiel and Orzú
IVE missionaries in Ulyanovsk, Russia.